Pregnancy of Revenge(64)

By: Jacqueline Baird

Bathed, changed and tucked up in bed, Charlie had eaten a plate of delicious home-made lasagne and a huge wedge of chocolate gateau. Replete and tired, she refused Marta' s offer of cheese.

'No. Marta, truly I don't want anything else, only to sleep,' she said gently. 'You go and look after Aldo. I'm fine." She suffered Marta' s thanks for about the thousandth time before Marta finally left.

She lay back against the pillows. It had been a traumatic day, but it had helped her clarify her thoughts on her marriage. She was going back home to England, whether Jake liked it or not, and when she saw him she would tell him so. But not tonight. She was tired. She let her eyelids droop, and was floating on the hazy edge of sleep when she heard the door close.

It was Jake, but he looked like something the cat had dragged in. His black hair was wildly dishevelled, as though he had been running his fingers through it. He had shed his jacket and tie and his shirt was open to the last button. His handsome face tightly drawn, he walked across to her and sat down on the side of the bed.

'What do you want? I was trying to sleep.' His dark brooding gaze roamed slowly over her, lingering on the gauze bandage on her arm, his mouth tightening. It was a warm summer night and she was only wearing a slip of a nightdress. The cover was draped around her middle, and Charlie gathered the sheet closer about her, feeling absurdly nervous as the silence lengthened.

'Aren't you supposed to be in Japan?' She raised her chin, determined not to let him intimidate her ever again.

'Yes, but my wife hung up on me, and, hard as it may be for you to believe, I was worried about you.' He reached for her hand and grasped it in his. She tried to pull free, but he tightened his grip. 'No, please, hear me out. ‘There was a look of determination in his eyes, but also an uncertainty about him she had never seen before. 'I did a lot of thinking on the flight over here, and I realised, in the short time we have been together, I have not been totally honest with you because I have not been honest with myself.'

Charlie was pretty certain she knew what he was going to say next and didn't give him the chance. 'You have no need to explain. I know,' she said woodenly. 'Our marriage was a mistake, and we both know it. It was always the baby you wanted and not me. And don't bother denying it.'

It was never—' Jake began, but she lifted her hand to silence him.

'No, let me finish. I thought for a little while I could live with a marriage solely for the child, but I realised I can't. I'm going back to England.'

'Charlotte, I am—' She cut him off again.

'But don't worry, Jake, I won't deprive you of your child. We are both mature adults, I'm sure we can come to some amicable access agreement.'

'Amicable agreement?' His dark eyes flared, all trace of uncertainty gone. 'I don't want an amicable agreement!' he growled, once more his arrogant, demanding self. 'What I want is you, and I am trying to tell you I love you, damn it!'

'Oh, yes?' Charlie sneered, not believing him for a moment.

Jake's eyes bored into hers, dark and unfathomable, and a tiny muscle clenched at the edge of his jaw as he attempted to remain in control. 'I do love you, Charlotte. I think I have from the moment I saw you, but I told myself I didn't believe in love.'

'But now you do. How convenient, when I have just told you I am going home.' She tried for sarcasm but her voice wobbled ever so slightly. He sounded so sincere.

'No, love is not convenient, Charlotte. I have learned that much over the weeks we have been together. It is an ache, a hunger, a need that is all consuming. I tried to tell myself you were no different from all the other women I had known. In my heart I knew you were, but I refused to face it,' he said, leaning closer and gently stroking a strand of hair back from her face.

'When I spoke to you yesterday you sounded different, detached, and when you hung up on me—for the first time in my life, I was afraid. I ordered the jet and came straight back, but even then I was not ready to admit I loved you, because I did not fully understand what loving you meant.' He squeezed her hand so tight Charlie almost cried out. 'And then I saw the open gates, the empty house, and the horror scenarios that ran through my mind terrified me. I thought you had gone or been kidnapped, killed, and it was the worst moment of my life, but two minutes later I realised it wasn't when I lifted my eyes and saw you climbing that cliff.'